Creating a Culture of Safety

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The gateway to efficiency and improving patient satisfaction in diagnostic imaging

Patient accidents are rare, but what if the patient involved in an accident were your mother, your child or even you?

Safety is constantly on everyone’s mind at a hospital, from the C-suite to the physician to the patient. A lack of patient safety leads to lower satisfaction scores, impacts a hospital’s bottom line and damages its reputation and trust among patients.

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now making patient safety a requirement, providers are changing all aspects of the way they conduct business to create a new era of safety. This requires providers to be more transparent about errors, near misses and other unanticipated events in order to rectify them.

This reality is becoming apparent at even the most prestigious institutions. Just recently, the National Institutes of Health began overhauling the entire leadership team at its premier Clinical Center to make patient safety and transparency the top priority. Patient safety was the catalyst for the organization’s most significant restructuring in more than 50 years.

Diagnostic imaging is an important part of the safety picture. The development of a fully comprehensive safety program can contribute to improvements in workflow and throughput, enhance patient safety and satisfaction and improve your hospital’s reputation.

All imaging departments, regardless of size, should be shifting to a culture of safety. Success can be achieved with a combination of organizational change, imaging technology that puts patients first and working with the right partner.

Building Relationships in a New Paradigm

A focus on safety requires new kinds of relationships with patients, physicians, other health systems and technology providers. That means building strong, long-term relationships with technology partners to match solutions to a hospital’s specific business and patient needs. A one-size-fits-all approach comes nowhere close to working anymore.

For example, PinnacleHealth System, a hospital and healthcare system in central Pennsylvania, expanded its focus on safety and on improving the patient experience across all of its medical imaging technology. To do so, it needed a different type of partner, one that could deliver tailored solutions and was willing to make a long-term commitment.

One area of focus was patient falls and injuries. By adopting new lateral slide technology for its CT systems, PinnacleHealth enabled clinicians to position patients more efficiently within the CT system gantry and transfer them more safely.

PinnacleHealth also incorporated advanced dose reduction tools for both CT exams and long interventional X-ray procedures to decrease radiation exposure by an estimated 30 to 40 percent. It also incorporated new, larger CT bores and advanced noise reduction technology in its MR systems.

This holistic approach to safety and the selection of a technology partner that delivered customized solutions had a dramatic impact on PinnacleHealth’s patient satisfaction. Additionally, it increased physician referrals and saw imaging services, previously a minor component of its portfolio, grow into one of its strongest service lines.

Unique Technology Combinations

Breakthroughs in technology and the unique merging of modalities can create more accuracy, safety and efficiency. For example, CARTI, a cancer care center located in Arkansas, utilizes advanced imaging technology that integrates CT with interventional radiology technology into one system.

The new system allows CARTI to plan, treat and confirm outcomes in a single clinical setting. The combination of the interventional lab and CT also decreases procedure time, the frequency follow-up exams and patients’ infection risk because physicians no longer need to transfer patients between rooms or departments.

Keeping Patient Data Safe

Safety also extends to patient data. Cyber-threats present a significant risk not only to healthcare institutions but also to patients when personal health and financial information is stolen.

Providers need to make every effort to ensure the technology that is integrated into their network is as secure as possible and employs the most up-to-date protection software. And if an attack occurs, it’s important to have the proper protocols in place and identify immediate solutions.

The Business Case

In an era when achieving business success is more difficult than ever, diagnostic imaging and a focus on safety can improve the bottom line.

Kaleida Health’s Gates Stroke Center (GSC) in Buffalo, N.Y., implemented the latest in CT imaging technology with advanced dose reduction capabilities to treat stroke. As part of its evaluation of the new technology, it completed a two-phase study analyzing patient and fiscal benefits.

GSC achieved $1.31 million in annualized cost savings, a reduction in patient length of stay and improved discharge dispositions as a result of its multidisciplinary approach, enhanced education and training and advanced CT imaging technology. These results are particularly eye-opening, as the idea that investing in new technology increases costs is a common misperception.

Success Factors

Diagnostic imaging plays a crucial role in the ways in which healthcare providers can improve patient care. The key to success is aligning your entire organization in a culture of safety and finding the right technology partner, one who is willing to adapt to your specific needs and delivers solutions that put patient safety first. If you do it right, you can improve workflow, patient safety and satisfaction, all while enhancing your competitive edge in the communities you serve.

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About Author

Satrajit Misra

Satrajit Misra is the vice president of marketing and is responsible for overseeing all business units, corporate and strategic communications, clinical collaborations and healthcare economics at Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc.

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